Her entry begins:
I am a medievalist by training and profession but for the most part I dislike historical novels, except when they deal with scientists and their passions (though I have no particular scientific aptitude). Recently I embarked on a kind of “thematic binge,” bookended by a wonderful non-fiction book, Richard Holmes’ The Age of Wonder and a novel, T. C. Boyle’s When the Killing’s Done (a book I almost didn’t read because of its awful title). Holmes’ book’s subtitle is “How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science.” It focuses on scientists like Joseph Banks, Humphry Davy, William Herschel and his sister Caroline, and the explorer Mungo Park. Each chapter captures the excitement of new discoveries, people’s resilience in the face of disappointments, and...[read on]About The Strange Case of Ermine de Reims, from the publisher:
In 1384, a poor and illiterate peasant woman named Ermine moved to the city of Reims with her elderly husband. Her era was troubled by war, plague, and schism within the Catholic Church, and Ermine could easily have slipped unobserved through the cracks of history. After the loss of her husband, however, things took a remarkable but frightening turn. For the last ten months of her life, Ermine was tormented by nightly visions of angels and demons. In her nocturnal terrors, she was attacked by animals, beaten and kidnapped by devils in disguise, and exposed to carnal spectacles; on other nights, she was blessed by saints, even visited by the Virgin Mary. She confessed these strange occurrences to an Augustinian friar known as Jean le Graveur, who recorded them all in vivid detail.Writers Read: Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski.
Was Ermine a saint in the making, an impostor, an incipient witch, or a madwoman? Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski ponders answers to these questions in the historical and theological context of this troubled woman's experiences. With empathy and acuity, Blumenfeld-Kosinski examines Ermine's life in fourteenth-century Reims, her relationship with her confessor, her ascetic and devotional practices, and her reported encounters with heavenly and hellish beings. Supplemented by translated excerpts from Jean's account, The Strange Case of Ermine de Reims brings to life an episode that helped precipitate one of the major clerical controversies of late medieval Europe, revealing surprising truths about the era's conceptions of piety and possession.